“The Troubling Things I Learned When I Re-Reported Bob Woodward’s Book on John Belushi”: Tanner Colby

in Slate; via Jesse Walker; totally worth your time:

…Of course, John Belushi did do all of those drugs, and there’s little doubt that the drug stories Woodward uses actually happened. But he just goes around piling up these stories with no regard for what is actually relevant. Just to compare and contrast: At one point, Woodward stops the narrative cold to document a single 24-hour coke binge for the better part of eight pages. Nothing much happens in these eight pages except for Belushi going around L.A. doing a bunch of coke; it’s not a key moment in Belushi’s life, but it takes on an outsized weight in Wired’s narrative simply because Woodward happened to find the limo driver who drove Belushi around and witnessed the whole thing, providing him with a lot of juicy if not particularly important information. Meanwhile, the funeral of Belushi’s grandmother—which was the pivotal moment when he hit bottom, resolved to get clean, and kicked off his year of hard-fought sobriety—that event is glossed over in a mere 42 words, and a quarter of those words are dedicated to the cost of the plane tickets to fly to the funeral ($4,066, per Woodward, as if it matters to the story).

Whenever people ask me about John Belushi and the subject of Wired comes up, I say it’s like someone wrote a biography of Michael Jordan in which all the stats and scores are correct, but you come away with the impression that Michael Jordan wasn’t very good at playing basketball.

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